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Israel sets up ministerial team to investigate NSO spyware allegations: Report

Israel has formed a senior inter-ministerial team to look into mounting allegations that spyware sold by an Israeli cyber firm has been misused globally, an Israeli source said on Wednesday, while an export The review was unlikely.

The team is led by Israel’s National Security Council, which answers to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and has a broader area of ​​expertise than the Defense Ministry, which oversees the export of NSO Group’s Pegasus software, the source said. .

“This incident is outside the purview of the Ministry of Defense,” the source said, referring to a possible diplomatic setback following major media reports this week of suspected misuse of Pegasus in France, Mexico, India, Morocco and Iraq.

On Wednesday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said French President Emmanuel Macron had called for a series of investigations into the Pegasus spyware case.

France’s Le Monde newspaper said on Tuesday that Macron’s phone was on the list of possible targets for Moroccan surveillance in the Pegasus case.

The source, who has direct knowledge of the Israeli team and requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, considered it “dubious” that new restrictions would be imposed on the export of Pegasus.

Before describing the team’s work as a formal investigation, the source said: “The aim is to find out what happened, look into the issue and learn lessons.” Commenting on the development, an NSO spokesperson said: “We welcome any decision made by the Government of Israel, and we are confident that the company’s activities are without blame.” Bennett’s office declined comment. While addressing the cyber conference on Wednesday, the Prime Minister did not mention the NSO issue.

‘Misconceptions’

Pegasus was used in an attempted and successful hack to hack the smartphones of journalists, government officials and human rights activists, a global investigation published Sunday by 17 media organizations led by Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories said was.

NSO has dismissed the reporting of media partners, saying it is “full of misconceptions and unconfirmed theories”.

NSO said Pegasus is only for use by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime.

Such are also the objectives that guide Israel’s export policy, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a speech on Tuesday. But, in reference to the allegations against Pegasus, he said: “We are currently studying the published information on this matter.” At the conference, Bennett said Israel has MoUs with dozens of countries about cyber security, which it wants to upgrade to a “global cyber defense shield.”

(Only the title and image in this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)

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